Biological Inoculants Win 2014 Google Science Fair

Three Irish Girls Take Grand Prize in Their Age Category.
an exclusive from our Corn Belt correspondent Stu Ellis

When the world of agricultural research gathered in Des Moines, IA, October 15th to award the 2014 World Food Prize and celebrate the contributions of the late Norman Borlaug, a Nobel Laureate, word was getting out about three Irish girls who may be in line for the Borlaug award in future years. They are high school friends, and in the spirit of poet Edgar A. Guest, did something that others said could not be done:

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure;
There are thousands to point out to you, one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle right in with a bit of a grin,
Then take off your coat and go to it:
Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing
That cannot be done, and you’ll do it.”*

But they did it!

Emer Hickey, Ciara Judge, and Sophie Healy-Thow, all of County Cork, Ireland did just that and bested a flying robot and a remote-controlled microscope to take the 2014 Google Science Fair top honors with their findings that …are you ready… rhizobia bacteria can help seed germinate 50% faster and increase output by 70% in some cases. Yes, rhizobia, the same bacteria present in the nodules on the roots of soybeans, alfalfa, and other legumes.

Rhizobia, the same bacteria present in the nodules on the roots of soybeans

Rhizobia, the same bacteria present in the nodules on the roots of soybeans

Emer, Ciara, and Sophie had been taught that rhizobia works well with legumes, but that was the end of the lesson. “We became really interested in what this bacteria can do and what people haven’t done with it so far,” Sophie told Scientific American. They have proven that rhizobia can aid the germination and growth of cereal crops, such as barley and oats.

After three years of research and 13,000 seeds germinating in a kitchen, sitting room, garden and other facilities of Ciara’s family home, they concluded that rhizobia could be the key to combating food shortages and lessening dependence on chemical fertilizer. And since the bacteria is naturally-occurring it makes seed inoculation relatively inexpensive.

The Texas Plant and Soil Lab extends its warmest congratulations to Emer, Ciara, and Sophie, who will bring great public attention to the type of science that the TPSL® team and its colleagues have been sharing for years with our clients. In fact, biological inoculants are a big part of TPSL®’s Ask The Plant® soil fertility and crop nutrition programs Soil inoculation with such products as Bio S.I. help ensure soil has a complement of bacteria that will foster faster, more efficient germination and vibrant growth. TPSL® can share many success stories about the incorporation of inoculants into a soil together with its balanced crop nutrition program needed for your crop to resist disease and provide exceptional yields and quality beyond what you would expect.

*It Couldn’t Be Done, Edgar A. Guest (excerpt)

Stu Ellis
Veteran Agricultural Communicator
S2LS Communications

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